After an amazing showing at the recent inaugural Caribbean Cycling Championships on home soil, the only four women on the 19-member national team wish there were more women on the team.
“It was just the four of us on the TT team. We want more females in the sport,” Alexia Wilson said.
The team competed against participants from Cuba, Barbados, Jamaica, St Lucia, Suriname and Antigua, copping a total of 29 medals, ten of which were won by Alexi Costa-Ramirez, Adrianna Seyjagat, Phoebe Sandy and Wilson.
“I think it was a really good opportunity to have an event at this level on our home track because the crowd obviously was for us. It felt really good going around the track and hearing the crowd saying our names, encouraging us to go faster. It definitely contributed to the number of medals we were able to bring home for TT,” Costa-Ramirez told WMN.
“And that way we didn’t have to adjust to the tracks because we already knew everything about it,” Sandy added.
For Seyjagat and Wilson, this event was their first time participating in an international event, with both describing it as an honor to having made it on home soil.
“Doing it at home was a great way to dip your toes into the international competition pool. It was a really good learning experience for me,” Wilson said.
Seyjagat, Costa-Ramirez and Sandy formed part of the 19-and-over elite team, while Wilson competed in the junior category.
Costa-Ramirez, 27, is an endurance athlete, while the others are sprinters. Endurance cyclists go long distance whereas sprinters cycle extremely fast for shorter distances.
“I basically started cycling six years ago because of my dad. He is big into it, and I borrowed one of his bikes from him and started training and the rest is history. I am currently based in the US and I cycle here professionally with CWA Racing, a Florida-based club.
“I left TT at the end of 2020, basically during the covid lockdown. The lockdown made it hard to train so I left. Right now I’m getting ready for my 2023 season,” she said.
Seyjagat told WMN she has been cycling since she was five, after being introduced to the sport by one of her cousins. Now 21, she trains with the Arima Wheelers Cycle Club.
Sandy started riding in 2018 and has never regretted it.
“I’ve always loved bikes and used to customize them. Through a friend I joined the Madonna Wheelers cycling club in Arima and it (cycling) is my life at the moment,” she said.
Wilson, a fifth form student at Bishop Anstey High School East, became a cyclist for more of a medical reason but shares the same love for the sport as her team-mates.
“When I went into primary school I was diagnosed with ADHD and the doctors advised my parents to get me into a sport to burn up the energy. But I still have plenty energy,” she chuckled.
She attended an Arima Wheelers camp and has been cycling for over ten years. But, like Costa-Ramirez, her passion for cycling may also have its roots in genetics.
“My dad loves cycling and one time he took me to an Easter Grand Prix. Njisane Phillip was there and I saw him cross the line, and I just fell in love with it,” Wilson said.
Phillip, a two-time TT Olympic cyclist, was appointed national coach for the Caribbean Cycling Championships and came in for high praise from the women.
“And definitely having a coach like Njisane, whether it’s endurance or sprint, he has a lot of experience and he did a really good job dealing with every single athlete. He was the only coach and was on the start line for every single race that was going to happen. He didn’t miss a single start to any of the events. He was running up and down like a mad person, but he got the job done,” Costa-Ramirez said.
In fact, she said, the entire management team comprising of Phillip, manager Ian Cole, team mechanics Elisha Green and Jovian Gomes, and chaperone Kanika Paul Payne were deserving of as much credit as the athletes for the work they put in before and during the competition.
“They did a fantastic job for all the athlete. There were only five of them having to work with 19 athletes. It must have been challenging to co-ordinate because we took part in every single event,” Costa-Ramirez said.
The young women are saddened by the fact that, due to lack of funding, the team will not be able to stay together to train.
“We have such a good team right now and it would be nice if we could be able to stay together…It would be great if we could train together, because with the people like Alexi and Njisane, who went abroad and came back with so much experience and have no problem with sharing their experience, we could be such a great team,” Wilson.
The idea is that rather than training separately at their respective clubs, proper funding would allow for the team to attend camps to train together as one unit, so that when competition comes around the transition from training to the competition track would be seamless. She said this time around the female sprint team only got together about ten minutes before the competition.
“It will motivate us to work harder. It’s unfortunate that we don’t have the funding because we have a good team and pool of cyclists. There are so many games coming up next year, if we stay together we’ll bring home plenty, plenty medals,” Wilson said.
Among the competitions the four are looking forward to participating in next year are the Junior World Cycling Championship, the Panam Games, the Commonwealth Games, and the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games which will be held in TT. And hopefully, one day to represent TT at the most prestigious sporting event.
“CAC Games and Panam are pretty big competitions for TT because we have a lot of athletes that go to those games… But I think everybody’s goal now is the Olympics,” Costa-Ramirez said.